Religion writers get a lot of curious mail in their inbox. Our favorite this week was from Instapray, a social praying app.
Instapray does exactly what you'd think it would — matches communal prayer with the real-time get-it-anywhere nature of social media by allowing users to add, share, comment on, and update prayers. Like similar apps before it, there’s a spiritual motivation, too — users can mark that a prayer has been answered, or “repray” with others in solidarity of situation or spirit.
Most social prayer apps to date are some variation on Instapray, if less catchy/hokey in name — the Prayer Network, Ora, Intercede, Fellowshipper. Their thesis is clear — we often forget or don’t make time to pray; we don’t know who and what to pray for; we want to know our deep questions or petitions are being heard. (One also has to wonder whether the psychological pitfalls of digital social tools apply doubly when faith is involved — “What about all my prayers left publically unanswered? Why doesn’t anyone else share my prayer?".)
At Instapray’s splashy conference debut at the Values Voters Summit in September, CEO Fryderyk Ovcaric stressed the app was not a replacement for embodied prayer, so much as a redirection of energies and focus while we’re using mobile.
There’s a growing sense of partnership potential between Silicon Valley and faith communities, but the market for Christian social media to date remains largely untapped. It seems developers and faith leaders have yet to discover their collaborative sweet spot, where often-private religious inquiry best meets digital social tools. Instapray is one newer attempt at finding that nexus — success TBD.
In the meantime, here are 5 other Christian apps tooled to provide a closer walk with … well, each other.
1. InPrayer — Developed for the Seventh-day Adventist church, time is InPrayer’s organizing principle. Described as a “global prayer chain,” the app gathers all users for prayer twice a day (at 7:00 am and 7:00 pm), seven days week. Good for: the monastic/liturgical-minded, Seventh-day Adventists.
2. The Voice of the Martyrs — Developed for those looking to pray regularly for Christians in hostile and violent situations. Users around the world upload, share, and subscribe to a stream of prayer requests for fellow Christians in dangerous situations, displayed over a flag of the country in question. Good for: global justice-minded, religious liberty-conscious users.
3. She Reads Truth — Tooled for a community of women to read, comment on, and pray through the Bible together. A byproduct of the widely popular website, the She Reads Truth app was funded in one day on Kickstarter in early 2014. Good for: women, especially any fitting this description.
4. Letters to God — Inspired by the movie of the same name, users get a rotating globe showing letters to God posted from around the world, color-coded by mood. (Presumably none are too angry — the app censors any letters that “directly blasphem[e]” or “curse God and put down believers.”) Users can write letters, search for others by location and theme, and keep track of who has read or responded.
Other interactive graphic apps include The Sanctuary, a digital church wherein users can leave prayer “candles” burning at the altar, and PrayerBowls, an app that visually replicates a common worship practice of dropping petitions — private or communal — into a bowl. Good for: visual-based learners, design geeks, Leslie Jones.
5. Divinely — and its newer cousin, BibleGram — is an Instagram-like platform for Bible verses and prayers. To enhance users’ photo prayer requests Divinely includes verse suggestions based on theme and “inspirational filter” options like “faith,” “risen,” or, more grimly, “shroud.” Good for: photoshop junkies, the Insta-obsessed.
Catherine Woodiwiss is Associate Web Editor for Sojourners. Tell her about your favorite spirituality apps at @chwoodiwiss.